Welcome to Wolford With Women a dedicated space for stories of empowerment to support and encourage women everywhere.

All through the year we will be highlighting both historical figures and contemporary women to celebrate their stories.

We believe that giving women a voice and a space to share their remarkable experiences is the first step to empower all women to overcome the challenges in their daily lives. We wish to support gender equality by listening and learning from these stories of their lived experiences.

For over 70 years we have helped women move freely and feel fabulous. Now it is time to reaffirm our commitment to gender equality. We hope that by providing this platform we will move society one step closer to that goal.

This project is made possible thanks to writer and journalist Carmelo Abbate, for many years special correspondent of the weekly magazine Panorama, now the creator of the digital multimedia project "Storie degli Altri” (Stories of Others), which is divided into different innovative channels: social networks, Internet site, books, podcasts, videos, that in a year and a half have organically reached a community of half a million women.

 

ELSA SCHIAPARELLI

This is Elsa. She was born in Rome in 1890. Her parents are from aristocratic stock. Elsa is a lively child, her nannies have no control over her, she shuts herself in her room, comes out with a face full of seeds. Look, I’m a flower garden!

She’s 6, comes home from school sulking. The soup at school is awful! Nobody believes her. Elsa steals some and secretly serves it at home. A night of upset stomachs ensues. Her uncle Giovanni is a famous astronomer, Elsa shows him the freckles on her cheek. Uncle, what do they remind you of? He looks, weighing them up, his face lights up. My girl, you’ve got Ursa Major on your face! Then he shows her the stars with his telescope. I’m going to tell you a secret, there are people just like us on Mars. Elsa is enthralled. What does that mean! Her uncle laughs. You’ll understand soon enough my little one.

She grows up, she’s 21, she dreams of becoming an actress, her parents want her to be an academic. Elsa writes a book. Her father reads it, reddens, is outraged. This is obscene! She is sent to a Swiss convent. Elsa flees to London, meets Count de Kerlor, a fortune teller, ladies’ man and chancer. She marries him.

It’s 1920. Her daughter Gogo is born, her husband abandons them. Elsa moves to Paris, goes into a boutique, feels the fabrics, gets lost in the colours. I’ll be a designer! Her friends try to put her off. Darling, you’d be better off gardening. Elsa works from home, then buys a shop near Coco Chanel. Rivals, there is no love lost between them. Elsa goes to a ball in a tree costume. Chanel pushes her onto a chandelier, causing her dress to catch fire, Elsa puts it out with soda water. She creates the colour shocking pink, designs a lobster dress and a hat shaped like a shoe. Her clothes defy logic, but women love them.

It’s 1939. Her Astrology Collection confirms her place in the fashion universe, a brooch in the shape of the Plough being the highlight. Elsa Schiaparelli pins it on her dress. Dear uncle, you were right, I’m an alien, a mad woman, a girl full of imagination who dreams of the stars.

 
 

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MARIA CALLAS

This is Maria. She was born in New York in 1923. The midwife wraps her in a blanket, her mum, incredulous, pushes her away. She wanted a boy. It’s four days before she can bear to hold her. Maria is growing up, she’s a short-sighted, plump girl. Everyone dotes on her older sister, who is also allowed singing lessons. Maria hides behind the door, listening, and then goes into another room and copies the vocal exercises. Passersby stop and listen enthralled. Her mother gives in, gets her a teacher too. Maria sings, works hard, wants to make her mum proud.

She’s 11, she finishes first in a competition, winning a watch. Her mother will hear no argument. Give it to your sister! Maria, crying, does as she’s told.

It’s 1937. Her parents split up, Maria ends up back in Greece with her mum. She goes to the conservatory of music, performs in theatres, sings until she drops. Music is her only friend, her reason to be, her place in the world. Her voice is her protective shield.

It’s 1945. Maria packs a suitcase and sets off, trying her luck first in the U.S., and then in Italy. She gets an audition in Verona. She’s overweight, clumsy, ungraceful, but her voice is spectacular. Businessman Giovanni Battista Meneghini is completely bowled over. Maria is too. He is the first human being to ever pay her any attention. First he becomes her manager, then her husband. Offers of work come flooding in, theatres the world over fight to have her. Maria loses 36 kilos, changes how she dresses, becomes The Callas, the Divine one.

It’s 1957. She meets Aristotle Onassis, the richest man in the world. Maria leaves her husband and throws herself into Onassis’ arms. She dreams of having a home and family. After nine turbulent years, he leaves her and marries Jackie Kennedy. Maria dries her eyes, adjusts her makeup and goes on a world tour, head held high.

It’s 1974. She’s on stage in Sapporo, Japan, her last performance. She’s frightened. Her voice fails, abandons her. Maria finds herself alone, fragile, vulnerable. The audience rises to its feet and applauds her.

 
 

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Miriam Makeba

This is Miriam. She was born in a township suburb of Johannesburg, in South Africa, in 1932. Her mother gives birth on her own, in a hut. She cuts the umbilical cord, wraps the baby in a cloth and places her on the floor, on the mud. Cry my little one, live. Miriam lets out a cry, it almost sounds like a song.

She’s 5. Her mum is a servant in a white family’s house, Miriam goes to see her once a month. She gets off the train, is running towards her. Somebody shouts, the police throw a man to the ground, they kick and punch him, spit on him. Miriam is terrified. Her mum hugs her tight to her chest. Don’t cry, sing, always, everywhere, life is wonderful.

Years go by. Miriam joins the school choir, she’s really good, she’s chosen to sing a solo for King George VI. Miriam waits for hours, in the rain, her voice making the soldiers’ bayonets shake, the king passes by, without even looking at her, he just goes straight past. Miriam carries on singing.

She’s 17, she has a baby. She looks after her daughter, works, is a servant, a babysitter, a washerwoman. A cousin suggests that she performs with his band, Miriam bursts with excitement.  Some record producers hear her singing, they offer her a tour. Miriam sets off barefoot, with no luggage. She sings on stages around the world, denouncing apartheid, shouting at the top of her voice about the suffering of her people.

It’s 1960. Her mum dies. Miriam is in the US, she gets ready to go home, but South Africa slams its door in her face and bans her music. Desperately Miriam sings. She moves around from country to country, is unable to do anything when her daughter dies, her only home is the stage.

It’s 1990. Nelson Mandela is freed, he calls for her. Miriam Makeba arrives in Johannesburg, rushes to her mother’s grave, cries. A crowd gathers around her, adults and children sing her songs, they dance, she’s awash with their smiles. Thank you Mama Africa, thank you for what you’ve done. Miriam can’t believe it, she dries her tears. You were right mum, it is a wonderful life.

 
 

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Gloria’s Art: women’s bodies

“I UNDRESS THEM TO SET THEM FREE”

Born in a small town in Liguria, she grows up tormented by her thoughts and studying people.

A student of the Heritage of Art based in Florence, in some ways a painter, sometimes lost in centuries gone by trying to feel the fierce love (passion?) that’s hidden behind a text, a painting, a conversation.

She loses herself in the canvas and in her thoughts to create inclusion in nudity, breaking down the standards of beauty.

The philosophical and human temperament is that of an artist, inclined to reflection and to obtaining an inclusive artistic space, a shelter for the fragile.

 
 

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Diana Vreeland

This is Diana. She was born in Paris in 1903. Her parents move in high society circles, her mum is instantly noticeable, she lights up the room with her beauty.

Diana is a child, she goes through her mum’s clothes, wrapping herself in silk, smearing lipstick on her face. Mum, how do I look? Her mum touches her face. My darling, you’re ugly. The family moves to New York.

Diana is 16. She brings a boyfriend home, her mum flirts with him. Diana is furious. She shuts herself in her room, in front of the mirror, and comes out with a white-painted face and ruby red lips. No more hiding away, it’s time for living. Dressed as a geisha girl, she goes to dance the bolero and bewitches everyone.

It’s 1924. Diana is the queen of the socialites, her rosy cheeks charm one of New York’s most eligible bachelors. Reed invites her to play golf, Diana accepts, but she’s never even held a club before. She shows up with a bandaged arm. Sorry! Reed bursts out laughing, and marries her. They travel around the world in a Bugatti, he having the odd fling, Diana dancing till dawn with an Argentinian gigolo.

It’s 1936. During a party, Diana dances a bolero in a white lace dress. The Editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar is enchanted and opens up the doors of the fashion world to her. Diana Vreeland becomes the most important name in the magazine. Her eccentric suggestions make a style icon of her, she popularises the bikini, uses unusual models. Where others see imperfection, she sees personality. She’s got two sons who she only looks after on Wednesdays, because she’s become the dreaded Editor-in-chief of Vogue.

She’s 70. She’s sacked without warning, her husband dies. Diana cries in the hall of a luxury hotel while the orchestra plays. Her sons have never seen her so vulnerable. She lifts her head, adjusts her make up. If I have to let myself go, let it be in the most befitting setting. She takes to her bed, lets her hair go white.

She passes away at 86. They called me crazy, a visionary, a liar. I was all and none of these things. Women you have to live, live, live.

 
 

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ALESSANDRA AND PATRIZIA, IN SEARCH OF HAPPINESS

LOVE, LIFE CHOICES AND A CHILD ON THE WAY

Alessandra and Patrizia meet in Milan in 2013, and from that moment their life changes.

They understand that the time has come to make their dreams come true together. They quit their jobs and leave for the south of Italy.

First stop, the island of Pantelleria.

They haven’t a lot of capital to invest, nor old family ruins to renovate, nor businesses run. Their only certainty is their desire to live in a more natural, humane way.

It’s an economic challenge, but also a compassionate one.

Day by day, Alessandra and Patrizia get to know and discover each other, become each other's shoulder to lean on. They reinvent themselves, fall down and get back up again, with constancy, effort and satisfaction.

Now they are about to realize their biggest dream, that of becoming parents. Tiny Michele will be born in August in their new home, an old inn they have renovated in central Italy.

Alessandra and Patrizia desire a family built upon values: inclusion, sustainability, determination and the pursuit of happiness through simple things.

 
 

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Simone de Beauvoir

Simone and her partner Jean-Paul Sartre stipulate a proper contract governing their relationship.

It is renewable every two years, and is based on infidelity, which in their view should not be experienced as a betrayal, but a duty against the hypocrisies of bourgeois marriage.

They never live under the same roof, but their story spans 51 years, and today they are buried together in the Parisian Montparnasse cemetery.

In 1943, Simone was fired from her university and banned for life from teaching due to an affair with a student.

She wrote the "Manifesto of the 343 prostitutes" signed by intellectuals, actresses and ordinary women who admitted to having resorted to abortion, despite it being prohibited by law.

Simone argues that before being a wife or mother, a woman is a human being, free to choose, just like men are.

 
 

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GIORGIA'S HYMN TO LIFE.

Giorgia is 23 years old, lives in Piedmont, has a degree in Intercultural Communication. She studied for a period in Finland, thanks to the Erasmus project.

A recent survey by Sole24ore indicates she is among the top 10 Italian sustainability and environmental influencers.

Through her blog and a very popular Instagram profile, Giorgia runs strong social campaigns. She defines herself as a giver of unsolicited advice.

Why is she doing it? Because she can't keep quiet in the face of injustices and is committed to stimulating collective awareness.

"The planet is not at risk; the planet does not die. We are the ones in danger."

Her does not want to be a cry of alarm but a hymn to life.

 
 

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Katharine Hepburn

Her mother is personally involved in women's emancipation battles. Katharine as a child accompanies her to demonstrations and distributes balloons shouting "Votes for women!"

Katharine is a great sportswoman, she plays golf, rides and swims. She loves diving into the icy water of the ocean and swimming without looking back.

She wins four Oscars, but doesn't show up for the awards. She doesn't like the environment of cinema and actors.

To those who advise her to build a family because she is over thirty, Katharine replies: "I chose not to have children because I am too selfish, and a good mother must never be."

 
 

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SARA'S COURAGE!

"WE SET OUR OWN LIMITS"

Sara is 25 years old, lives in the province of Brescia, works as an interior designer and performs snowboarding at a competitive level.

The meningococcus did not stop her willingness to achieve, as soon as she was able to use her prosthetic legs, she took her snowboard and went up the ski slopes, under the incredulous eyes of her parents. Sara fell many times, got up, lost her balance and got up again and again. In snowboarding as in life.

Sara Baldo is a strong, tenacious and ironic woman. A woman who has decided not to lose heart, but to look to the future.

She has overcome the limits that her life has placed in front of her, she has believed in herself, and has discovered that there is nothing she cannot do. Her bright smile conveys to all her will to live.

 
 

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Valentina Tereshkova

Meet Valentina. She was born in Bol’šoe Maslennikovo, in Russia, in 1937. Her parents are farmers, scraping a living. Valentina is 2. Her father goes off to war, and never comes back. Her mother packs her and her two brothers up, and moves them to the city. Valentina has to grow up fast, cleaning the house, cooking, studying at night, when everyone else has gone to bed.

She’s 17, working her fingers to the bone in a factory, when her shift’s over she’s so tired she can’t think straight. She cries in anger, this life is dragging her down. Valentina reaches for the sky, wants more.

It’s 1955. She’s walking down the street, she stops, rubs her eyes, focuses. There’s something, up there, in the clouds! Something, getting closer, bigger. It’s a man, tied by ropes to something that looks like a giant seashell made of fabric. Valentina watches stunned. She feels a shiver run down her spine, her legs take on a life of their own, going straight to the city flying club. Without telling her mum she enrols on a parachuting course. She goes to class, puts on the skydiving suit and backpack, gets into the plane and jumps.

She feels free, weightless, happy. She wants more. Valentina trains in secret, her mum finds out and looks up at the sky. My dear daughter, have you ever seen a factory worker up in the clouds?

It’s 1961. Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space. While Russia is celebrating, Valentina’s blood boils. Why not a woman? She enrols in the cosmonaut training, her mum despairs. Valentina starts the training. Isolation, centrifugal force, decompression chamber, lots of theory. It’s hard work. Valentina grits her teeth, she’s not the best one on the course, but her parachuting experience is a bonus.

It’s 16th June 1963. Valentina Tereškova puts on her spacesuit, gets into the space capsule, holds her breath, hears the engines exploding into life and quickly finds herself up amongst the stars. She looks out of the window. See mum, your factory worker daughter has become the first woman in history to go into space.

 
 

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JOSEPHINE BAKER

Meet Josephine. She was born in St Louis, USA, in 1906. Her father was a dirt-poor musician, shifting from city to city, until one fine day he never came back.

Her mother got down to work. Josephine is 8 years old, she roams the streets in tattered clothing, singing, swinging her hands and feet, passers-by make compliments, give her some money.

Josephine runs home all full of excitement. Mama, I’m gonna be a dancer and I’m gonna buy you lots of gifts. She gets a smack. Don’t talk trash girl and think about work!

Josephine is a housemaid in white folk’s homes. Her owner treats her like a dog. She insults her, beats her, and when she makes a mistake she gets her hand held over the fire.

Josephine cries with anger. That evening she goes back home, looks her mother dead in the eye and challenges her. I’ll never be anyone’s slave ever again.

She works street corners, singing and dancing for spare change. She feels free. She’s 13. A club owner has her perform in his nightclub. Her mother goes to see her, at the end telling her she finds her ridiculous.

Josephine doesn’t give ground. Performing every evening. She can’t get her head around the dance choreography, but she doesn’t give up. She improvises, wiggles her hips, the public goes crazy.

It’s 1925. Offered a tour in Paris, Josephine packs her bags right away. Backstage of the Champs-Elysées Theatre she’s wearing a hula skirt made of bananas. The curtain goes up, the music starts.

Josephine launches herself into a crazy Charleston dance and floors everyone. From then on she is known as The Black Venus.

All Europe is at her feet, more than a thousand men ask her hand in marriage, one commits suicide, two fight a duel. Her topless dance is spellbinding, seductive and causes scandal.

In America they see her as a troublemaker, but they can’t ignore her anymore, the public acclaim her. Josephine refuses to perform in clubs where coloured people aren’t permitted.

It’s 1947. She marries a conductor, buys a castle in France, adopts twelve children. She protest-marches besides Martin Luther King, dancing against segregation and racism. Josephine Baker is a diva, a goddess, a little girl dressed in rags, famished for freedom.

 
 

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Marlene Dietrich

Meet Marie Magdalene. Born in Berlin, Germany, in 1901. Her mother uses an iron fist, lots of education and little recreation. She teaches her how to dress and curate her look. Marie Magdalene is 4 years old. She plays the violin, the piano, she’s an eccentric child.

Looking at herself in the mirror, she repeats her name aloud. It doesn’t ring true, not at all to her liking. Marlene sounds better. She wants everyone to name her that.

She grows up. The small girl with the plaits becomes a woman who knows what’s what.

Marlene sings and dances in Berlin’s cabarets. Her long, sensual legs and husky voice, fascinate the public, but not only them. She is wanted by the big screen.

Marlene concedes, on condition that they’ll do it her way. She goes on set wearing a male’s evening dress, a top hat and a cigarette hanging from her lips. She is irreverent and ambiguous. She has allure to sell.

The film “The Blue Angel” opens up the doors of Hollywood. She’s 28. Marlene Dietrich attires herself as a diva, it becomes her armour, making her feel safe.

She dyes her hair blonde, designs thin eyebrows, has molar teeth removed to make her face slimmer. Nothing is left to chance.

She gets married, has a daughter, raises her, protects her, wants her all to herself, but playing the role of a wife doesn’t suit her. Work comes first.

It’s 1930. The film “Morocco” is released. Marlene sings in a tailcoat, comes down from the stage, kisses a woman on the mouth. The press screams scandal, she smiles. This is who I am, take it or leave it. She never accepts restrictions, never lowers herself to compromise.

It’s the fifties. Men and women enter her bed, they come and they go, nobody remains.

Alcohol helps her fight loneliness. She drinks, but is not a drunkard.

It’s 1972. Marlene is in London for a show. Leaving the stage, she falls. The time has come for her final curtain.

She retreats to her Parisian home, discards her diva persona and passes away in silence. Her only request is to be buried in Berlin, close to her mother. Because when I’m with her, nothing bad can happen to me.

 
 

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WOLFORD WITH WOMEN

Stories of Empowerment

EPISODE 1

 

About Carmelo Abbate

Carmelo Abbate is an Italian journalist who worked as a special correspondent for the weekly magazine Panorama for many years. Carmelo conducted critical investigations as an undercover reporter, especially in social and economic issues, illegal immigration, and scandals related to the Catholic Church. He has published ten books with Mondadori, some of which have attracted the media's attention around the world. His book Sex and the Vatican, A Secret Journey of the Chaste, became a bestseller in France. A careful observer of news and current affairs, he is a television commentator for the Mediaset networks. The great experience gained and the desire to accept the challenges of our times led him to make the big leap: he created Stories of Others, a new digital platform, which through the telling of real-life stories, aims to stimulate and raise public awareness on major civil issues. The Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Tik Tok, Twitch pages have become a new digital channel full of innovative formats and contents.

The Stories of Others are stories that are born to enhance people. You are worth for what you do in everyday life, away from the spotlight, for your choices, your aspirations, your sacrifices, your goals, your small and big victories. Each story has a strong motivational drive. Whatever the path, the landing is always positive: the light at the end of the tunnel to give courage, transmit optimism and strength to those who read and live a similar story. Stories of Others has a specific mission: to build a better world.

Storie Degli Altri